City encourages residents to weigh in on future of parks system

June 25, 2019

Changes are coming to the Sioux Falls parks system.

City ordinance requires that the Parks and Recreation Department periodically survey Sioux Falls’ changing demographics to gauge what residents would like to see improved about the pools, parks, community centers, bike trails and everything else that falls under the broad umbrella of parks programs and facilities.

Results of the survey are “just a piece of the puzzle” in the department’s master plan, which is in development and will chart the course for its next five to 10 years, parks director Don Kearney said.

The survey is a scientific poll that’s mailed to randomly selected addresses in Sioux Falls to ensure the responses are inclusive and unbiased.

“What I’m hoping to see is what people think and where they want to see us take the parks system,” Kearney said. “I hope the survey does the talking for us. I truly want it to be what Sioux Falls citizens want it to be so that we can be responsive to what they indicate is most important to them.”

There is also an online survey, found here, which anyone who has or will use the parks department is welcome to take, Kearney said. The survey closes Friday.

Data collected from the surveys will be presented to the City Council on July 9.

Even though official survey results aren’t out, a few trends emerged during stakeholder interviews, focus groups, a demographic analysis and public forums that the parks department conducted in January.

According to a report released by Pros Consulting Inc., results from the focus group found that community members are most concerned about investment in the parks being equitable and want funding to be dispersed citywide to ensure that the quality of the parks system stays consistent in all neighborhoods.

Some of the specific desires interviewees mentioned were trail development, adequate parking, more river access points, senior activities, more downtown events and additional promotion and marketing for the parks department as a whole.

Pros Consulting and the city of Sioux Falls also did an analysis using information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Environmental Research Institute to gather statistics on national trends among demographics such as age, race and household income.

By cross-examining specific trends with the number of people within that demographic who live in Sioux Falls, the city was able to make projections as to which programs and activities might be in high demand.

National trends for sports found that golf and basketball draw the heaviest participation, but sports such as rugby and boxing are seeing sharp increases in popularity, with participation levels increasing more than 80 percent in the past five years.

The analysis also found that walking is the most popular fitness trend, hiking the most popular outdoor activity, kayaking the most popular water sport and fitness swimming the most popular aquatic trend.

The city hosted three public forums and reported approximately 28 participants were present at each to take a live poll.

Poll results found that participants’ top two parks priorities were continued trail expansion and additional Big Sioux River access. When asked what one thing they would change about the current park system, a majority of participants said the department needs to improve the equity of parks.

Responses from the stakeholder interviews, focus groups, demographic analysis, public forums and the survey will come together to help create the master plan, which Kearney said will be finalized before the end of the year.

“The bar is set really high here in Sioux Falls for Parks and Rec,” Kearney said. “There are a lot of really high expectations as to the quality of the services that we provide, but by the same token, they (residents) also typically support us at a really high level.”

Kearney said community support is especially evident in the number of donations and gifts the department receives from the private sector.

“We try to align our goals and priorities with what the community says it wants because, ultimately, we’re using their money to fund what it is they said those priorities were.”

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City encourages residents to weigh in on future of parks system

The Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department is preparing for the future, and you have a chance to share your ideas.

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